La Dolce Vita
We have, I fear, confused power with greatness.
One breath; one prolonged, exaggerated wetting of the upper lip, and then: "Your son. The P-Prince Deimos..." A stutter and then a gasp, the messenger wished to stop. Only a fool would continue on. Only a fool would have been called upon to deliver such news to the King in the first place and obviously, fear had robbed this fool of his ability to articulate.
He thought of his mother.
Sweat poured along his face, yet this did nothing to cool his burning limbs. "He...He's passed away."
He considered an apology. But in the overwhelming silence of the room, he knew that it will be inadequate. Who was he to offer condolences to the King?
No breeze cooled this night. The atmosphere was thick and heavy. The heavens too seemed to be holding their breath. Two bright milky orbs stared out of the charcoal sky, meeting the young messenger's gaze as he stood trembling. Understanding passed between him and the Gods.
They would both wait.
"What of the physician?" Ares' voice did not break with grief. His breathing was not shallow or short. Rather, when he spoke it was with an air of underlying rage, just crackling beneath the surface of his impassive veneer.
"He remains in the Prince's chamber, Lord." The reply came hastily.
"Send word for him to be executed on the morrow." Ares turned away. The movement was not graceful however; there was a distinct favouring of his left side and he dragged his feet when he walked, making his legs seem heavy and old. Years of war and disease had left their mark.
"The young Prince has been quarantined to his room since his brother took ill."
"Send word to him of his brother's passing." He stopped at the massive window. One of his hands caressed the curved limestone while he deliberated. His body eclipsed the milky light of the twin moons, confining the shine to his golden blonde hair. "Let the alchemist Vladimir know that I wish to see him."
"Yes...Yes my Lord."
Without another second's hesitation, the messenger scampered away. He broke into a full run once he was in the corridors and stopped only when he was inside of the kitchens.
"Your brother is dead."
It is his nurse who brought the news. The woman, as wide as she was tall, crowded his doorway and his senses with her repugnant stench. "Do you understand?" She spoke slower now, more deliberately, grinning widely all the while. "He is dead. His blood killed him. Your brother, the next king of Meridian."
He understood, although he didn't speak. His chest burned, not with sadness but with annoyance. He hated this blasted woman. Phobos clutched his book closer to his chest and stared at her greasy face. Even in the darkness, her bliss was obvious.
"The Prince Deimos was the perfect son. Your father's favourite. Your mother's pet. But that is not surprising. Who would not choose such a lively boy over a sickly mute?" She edged closer and he straightened his back. He is used to her malice; her cruel words no longer hurt him. He had told himself that she was far more pathetic than he, for what kind of woman attacked a child?
"Don't you have anything to say?"
Go. Go to Hades and burn.
"Now that your brother is dead, you are the heir to the throne. You father will no longer allow you to spend your days buried in books. Of course, that is unless your mother does not give birth to another son." She laughed. "Even a babe would be a better choice than you."
Let the demons there pluck your eyes from your skull and devour your rotten soul.
"Seven years I've watched you. I've seen you become more disgusting every year. You won't live to adulthood. Not if your brother could not..."
He felt his hands move long after he saw her fall, clutching her bleeding face. His book spiralled through the air, finally falling with a loud thump near the open door. His breaths came quickly, he swallowed but his mouth was still dry. She moved to her feet, looking at him with a bemused expression.
"Disgusting wretch," And then she left.
It has been three moonrises since the death of Deimos. The boy is cremated and his ashes confiscated by the alchemist Vladimir, who uses them in a thick brew which is later fed to the boy's surviving male relatives. A temporary remedy for the illness that plagues them both.
The nurse is right, after Deimos' death there are changes in Phobos' life. He had always been ignored by his father, who, like countless others, preferred to spend his time in the presence of the lively Deimos. Sometimes, well, actually quite a great deal more than just sometimes (but he would never admit to it), Phobos would spy on the pair as the galloped across the wide fields behind the castle, moving towards yet another hunt. Other times he would listen with magnificently concealed annoyance while the serving wenches and laundresses bustled about around his chamber, reciting humorous tales about his brother.
Truly, it was no surprise that he had hated the fool by the time he was six.
However, after his brother's unfortunate demise, things did change. His father would come to visit more than once a month, even bringing tokens and gifts to share with his son. Those servants, who had always ignored him before, now looked at him with interest. Would he survive to adulthood? Could this small, sickly mute be the next king of Meridian?
Lady Aphrodite possessed a beauty that was legendary. It was said that she possessed skin as fair as porcelain and hair as red as blood. So powerful were these myths, so inescapable were these legends that in her youth many a man had journeyed for months to arrive at her castle door, begging her father for her hand in marriage.
Her father persisted for he was a stubborn man, and his daughter's beauty was a matter of great pride for both him and his nation. He held firm, that is, until his beloved daughter eloped.
It caused quite the scandal at the time. Not only had she abandoned both family and country, she had left it for a man who many considered a devil. In fact, for the first few weeks following her departure, many wondered if she had been kidnapped. Those rumours escalated when Aphrodite's father declared war on his son-in-law, the satanic Ares.
Her father lost the battle, of course, and his country never truly recovered. The only reason that he or his family survived the entire ordeal was apparently because of a request made by his estranged daughter.
In the years that followed, the legends of Aphrodite receded. She bore Ares two sons, one was dead before manhood and the second was a mute. Clearly, beauty or no, she was useless as a wife.
Phobos had always thought his mother perfect. Unlike his father, she would always pay special attention to him, bringing him books, toys and Phobos' very favourite: new stories.
"Have you ever heard of the guardians of the veil?" Aphrodite's stomach protruded obscenely from beneath her thick blue gown. She was stunning still, her entire body seemed to radiate with happiness and excitement. As she sat beside him on his massive canopy bed, Phobos attempted to withhold the feeling of resentment towards his unborn sibling.
"I have a feeling that you have, with all those books that you've read."
He had. He knew a great deal about the guardians. They were the so-called saviours of Meridian, they protected Meridian from the evils on the other side of the veil. They had also been dead for over a century.
"When I was a little girl, my mother would tell me all about the guardians. You see, she had met one of them. A beautiful, exotic woman, with long raven hair, who wielded a sword with a special stone in the hilt."
Yes, he knew that too. The Blade of Kandrakar. It had disappeared when the guardians had, so he doubted that it was anything more than a legend. He didn't interrupt his mother however, because he liked the feeling of her arm about his shoulder, he enjoyed the sound of her voice.
"Now, listen to me Phobos. Listen and understand." Her voice had taken a hard, desperate edge and the tightness of her grip had suddenly intensified. "This stone gives whoever controls it great power. But also, it makes this person invincible...immortal."
Immortal. Even then, at seven years old, he could understand the fear of death.
"It is called the Heart of Kandrakar, and it obeys only its keeper. My son, you will be King. There is no doubt in my mind of that." She touched her stomach briefly, "it's a girl." Phobos stared. "I will not be here for much longer. You father will...He will be most upset with me. He will choose another wife once he discovers."
"But you," she caressed his face, "you will be a great king. You will be kind and gentle. You will be so wise and strong and you will live forever my son, for you will have the power of the heart. This is what I want for you. Always remember Phobos, that you had a mother who loved you more than anything..."
"My Lady, leave us." Ares invaded the space and immediately the intimacy evacuated. "I wish to speak with my Prince."
"Of course my Lord." She stood with her eyes lowered and curtsied briefly before briskly walking out of the door.
"I," it took a while for his father to begin, and when he did, his voice was strained and loud. "I brought you a trinket. It is...very important to me. I want you to take very good care of it. It is yours now."
He presented an old gold star, it was heavy and smelt of oil, as Phobos discovered once he held it. "I've had it ever since I was a boy. It's useless, but I've always thought that I brought me luck."
Phobos didn't reply and his father seemed uncomfortable.
"I...I have heard however, that it was once used to create temporary rips in the veil. Obviously, back when it was not so dangerous to do so."
Phobos stared at the object in his hand. His. It belonged to him because his father had deemed him worthy. Inside, his heart burned with pride, and he felt a small smile touch his lips.
"I had hoped Phobos. That you might join me tonight...at my table for the evening meal."
It had been raining that night. Phobos had always hated the lightning and thunder, which would echo dreadfully throughout the abandoned corridors of the palace. But that night there was something else: screams. Human screams.
It wasn't curiosity that drove him from his bed. Rather it was that he recognized the voice, even twisted by agony and smothered by thunder. He knew that it was his mother.
She had told him that she would not be with him for much longer. He recalled her warning as he removed his new gold star from underneath his pillow and clutched it to his chest. It made him feel braver somehow, as though it dulled the sound of the raging storm outside.
He followed that same eerie, magnetic sound through the dimly lit corridors, winding his way through the castle, a seemingly endless journey, promptly halting once he came up the burly form of Kya, his nurse.
She was speaking in rapid, harsh tones to another—his father—Phobos took special care to hide himself in the shadows.
"My Lady and her babe are both well, my King."
"The babe." He pried.
"A girl, my lord. She shows no sign of the bleeding as the others did..."
Phobos listened to the stream of blasphemies that followed as well as the strict order that he barked, "dispose of them. Both of them."
"Yes, my Lord."
The pair separated.
Phobos remained rooted to his spot.
There was no doubt in his mind as to what "disposing of them" could mean. He had been alive long enough –to see, to hear—to know, exactly what his father was capable of. A waterfall of ice cold terror cascaded along his spine, pooling at his knees. He swallowed.
Trembling, he thought of his mother. His beautiful, fragile mother—her head rotting on a spike, her body burnt beyond recognition—
In these dreams the newborn was never included.
He needed to save her.
Outside the storm grew steadily more violent. The winds cursed the mountains that impeded them, the sky opened up to trample and tear at the arrogant earth. Chaos reigned supreme.
Aphrodite had been anticipating this moment since she had discovered that she was with child. In those eight months she had created thousands of plans and plots—settling finally on one hastily constructed idea: bribery.
"Kya," she whispered, her voice mangled by fright. "Do not forget the plan—hide the babe in the—"
"I have not forgotten, my Lady." The nurse muttered impatiently, "do you remember my payment?"
"You shall have it once Eris is safe." She tucked the squirming infant into another thick layer of blankets, protection that she couldn't help believe that her daughter would need, and then bent to whisper promises into the child's ear. "I shall come as soon as it is safe...you mustn't cry...be brave for mother..."
Aphrodite held her child tightly in her arms, praying to the Gods that this would not be the last time she was able to do so, "please Kya, remember what we have talked about...ensure...Phobos," her luminous green eyes rested on the small figure standing between the doorposts, "My son, you should be in bed, it is late."
"Mother," both ladies froze at the sound. Never in his life had he uttered a sound before this, "I can help."
But before she could protest, he rushed up to her side and forced the weighty, golden star into her palm. "Father gave it to me. It can take you away from here...all of you." He didn't dare mention that what he wanted more than anything was for his mother to discard the small, misshapen babe and take him with her in its place.
"Phobos," she breathed; her voice wild with emotion. "You are so brave." She touched his cheek, "but this is only a story...this star...it won't save us..."
"Yes!" He snatched it away from her, "watch." And he sliced at the air before him with the star in hand, floundering only slightly when he saw that it remained the way it was.
"Foolish child, your father is a liar and a thief..." Kya grabbed the star now, turning it over several times in her rough palm, staring at it with ill concealed greed. "This is a trinket, nothing more."
"It is mine!" He screamed, unbelievably hurt by the lies and the uncontrollable feeling of failure that consumed him. He reached wildly for the star; Kya pushed him away, laughing as she did so.
The babe began to fuss because of the noise, and Aphrodite, flustered, tired and sick, took the ornament away from the both of them. "Be quiet!" She hissed, and then, it happened.
It was nothing short of a miracle. The wild movement of the Queen's hand, drawing backwards, the star trapped within her fingers, left a tangible mark on the space, yes the space, surrounding the three.
Suddenly, the room ceased to exist; there was a bright flash of blue light that seemed to swallow everything, and then, when it looked as though it had succeeded, when there was only a single strip of blue light lift between the four of them, the nurse began to move.
"Give me the child." She trembled as she walked; her arms outstretched, ready to fulfil her end of the bargain, after all, she had already spent the coins promised to her by the Queen.
"My Queen, we do not know where this portal leads..."
"We do!" Phobos argued, "It leads to Earth..."
"Earth!" Kya hissed, "That hell! It's filled with demons and monsters!"
"I cannot think it any worse than here," Face set, Aphrodite held her squirming child tighter in her arms. "Come Phobos..."
His heart leapt, he bounded forward—but was stopped mid-step by the voice of an intruder; his body was blurred by the intense light coming from the rip, but his voice left no questions on his identity. No. "What is this?"
"Treasonous lechers! You know not who you..."
But it was too late for his rants, for in a single instant, realizing that her coins and now her life were both in imminent danger, Kya grabbed both the babe and the star from a startled Aphrodite's arms and ran through the portal.
It disappeared in the next instant.
"My baby!" She turned on her husband next. "Do you see what you have done? Are you such a monster that you would have your own child suffer!"
"I wanted her dead, and death, Wife, is not such a cruel punishment as the one you have just offered her!"
She fell to her knees sobbing. She had already been weak from childbirth; weaker now from enduring all that had just unfolded. "I will not beg for mercy!"
"You will not have it!" He spat. "Phobos," he turned on his son, "return to your rooms. I will deal with you later."
"You will not hurt my mother!" He was by her side in a second, clutching her shivering form to his smaller one, he buried his face in her bright crimson hair. Never had he seen hair so red.
It was the last thing he would see, as his father advanced upon the pair and tossed him aside. His head collided with the ancient stone wall, and his mother's screams lulled him into a slumber in the same way that they had forced him awake.
When he did come to, she was gone.
Phobos would live to adulthood, to everyone's surprise. And when his father passed, finally succumbing to the disease that had claimed the life of his firstborn son and that he had spent the majority of his adult life attempting to conquer, just a week before his son's eighteenth birthday; there was not a single person in the world of Metamoor, who did not wonder if Prince Phobos would be quite as demented as his father was.
He could not, one young man was heard to remark, be any worse.
That same young man, who had dared to mention the Prince by his first name, was beheaded later that same afternoon. He head was left outside the gates of the palace, to rot on a spike, beside the head of the former King.
To Be Continued.
Author: I write again. According to Plan is on hiatus, to discover more about that you can check out my profile. This story however pleases me greatly, seeing as I have decided to re-write the W.I.T.C.H story line in a dark and depressing manner that gives me happy butterflies. Yay. Again, I have changed up some personalities, mostly minor characters but some of the major characters are a bit exaggerated.
For this chapter I wanted to give Phobos a history, rather than just have him go MWHAHAHAHA, I want to rule the world. No one is born evil, I feel.
Also, for this story, I wanted to incorporate some witchcraft and folklore and stuff. Like werewolves and vampires...those sorts of things. Caleb is coming up, Nerissa got a mention here...
Happy readings! I'm off to pen chapter 2.